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Intergenerational Transmission of Sexism

Most parents would do almost anything to protect their kids, yet they are often partially responsible, without realizing it, for allowing gender bias and sexism to worm their way into girls’ lives and eat away at their tender souls.

Even parents who resist their daughters’ media-induced values to grow up too fast don’t always recognize gender bias for what it is. After all, they grew up in an even more sexist culture than today's (yay progress!) and very likely had parents steeped in sexist values too. 


Often the incidents are subtle: a girl is complemented by an older man and her mom thanks him, ignoring the creep-factor she vaguely feels or her daughter's withdrawal. A father disparages an assertive woman or make a mysogynistic crack about, say, throwing like a girl.


Many mothers have swallowed whole the definition of the stereotypical good woman. And many fathers are in the inconvenient position of loving a gender they were taught to devalue. It’s a parent’s job to simultaneously protect their daughters from the culture while also helping them fit in. Anxious for their girls to fit in, they encourage them to conform to feminine norms, often without even recognizing it. They compliment their daughters on her looks FAR more than their sons, tease her about boys before she even knows what a crush is, and encourage her to lose weight, all of which teach her that her appearance and sexuality are what’s important.


Shopping and mani-pedis become a mom’s primary activity with her daughter. Dads call their daughter’s Princess and then complain she is one. Their sexist comments about hotties, and jokes about women drivers and naggy wives crush their daughters’ spirits and teach their sons to see women through this lense too. Or maybe it’s less obvious than that and they only play ball or have political discussions with the boys in the house.


Well-meaning parents may try to stop their daughters from internalizing stereotypes for women by demeaning women. When we discourage our daughters from being "girlie" or encourage them to be "tough like their brother," this is just another side of the same coin: men are better.

Anchor 1
Feminist Parenting
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